TOTALLY QUALIFIED: Victory Sends U.S. Men to Tokyo

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Aug. 11, 2019, 2:11 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Men's National Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 11, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Team qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday with a 25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21 win over Netherlands at the FIVB qualification tournament in Rotterdam.

It is the 10th straight time the U.S. Men have qualified for the Olympic Games and 12th time overall. The U.S. Men have won three Olympic gold medals (1984, ’88 and 2008) and two bronze (1992 and 2016).

OFFICIAL STATISTICS

Both the U.S. Men, ranked No. 2 in the world, and No. 15 Netherlands were 2-0 in the round-robin qualification tournament heading into Sunday’s match.

"Really proud of the way that we competed all week," U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. "It is not easy playing three matches in a row, especially when you’re the favorite. It is always difficult to go out and play against teams that have nothing to lose. I think we handled that stress really well. We were poised and competed incredibly hard and played a great collective team game."

The U.S. Men led Netherlands in blocks (11-8) and aces (6-3). The U.S. scored 31 points off Netherlands errors while committing 28. Netherlands led in attacks (45-44).

Opposite Matt Anderson led the U.S. with 18 points on 16 kills and two blocks. Outside hitter Aaron Russell, who missed much of this year's Volleyball Nations League tournament with a knee injury, added 17 points on 14 kills, one block and two aces.

"It was a tough tournament, but I’m really happy with how we all played," Anderson said. "Aaron coming back and playing lights out for almost every part of every match and guys stepping in off the bench taking the place of Taylor Sander right now – it’s a great team effort all week."

Middle blockers Max Holt and David Smith each played key rolls in the win and finished with 10 points apiece. Holt had a match-high five blocks. Smith had a match-high three aces.

Setter Micah Christenson scored two points and set the U.S. to a 49.4 kill percentage. Netherlands kill percentage was 45.5.

Libero Erik Shoji, as usual, was a key to the U.S. victory with strong and consistent passing of Netherlands’ tough serves.

"We’re so happy," Shoji said. "We expected a battle from the Netherlands and we got that. I think it was huge how we performed at the end of each set with those three-set wins. We’re just so excited, so happy and a bit relieved to have this off of our back and just so excited to be coming home with the win."

After losing the third set, the U.S. Men trailed in the fourth set, 12-10. The serving of Anderson and three straight Netherlands hitting errors gave the U.S. the lead at 13-12. After a U.S. service error tied it at 13-13, the U.S. came back with blocks from Christenson and Holt and an ace by Russell to take a 16-13 lead.

The Netherlands pulled to within one at 19-18. Middle blocker David Smith got a kill and followed with an ace to put the U.S. ahead by three and Netherlands never threatened again.

In the first set, Netherlands led 13-10 before the U.S. came back to tie at 14-14. Trailing 16-15, the U.S. went on a five-point run, including a kill and ace from Smith and a kill from Russell, to lead 20-16 and go on to win.

The U.S. trailed 10-6 in the second set. Still trailing 12-10, the U.S. scored on Netherlands’ serve in the net and kills from Russell and Anderson to lead 13-12. Later, with the score tied 17-17, Netherlands served out of bounds and Russell got a kill to give the U.S. the 19-17 lead and Netherlands never caught up.

Netherlands came back strong in the third set as opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz led his team to an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout and 16-8 at the second. The U.S. did have a 4-2 run at the end of the set, but it was too little, too late.

STARTERS FOR THE U.S. MEN VS NETHERLANDS
Outside hitters: Aaron Russell and Garrett Muagututia
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitute: Thomas Jaeschke (OH)

STATISTICS FOR THE U.S. MEN VS NETHERLANDS
Kills: Anderson 16, Russell 14, Smith 6, Holt 4, Jaeschke 3, Muagututia 1
Blocks: Holt 5, Anderson 2, Christenson 2, Russell 1, Smith 1
Aces: Smith 3, Russell 2, Holt 1

Results

Friday, Aug. 9
Netherlands def Korea, 23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-20, 15-12
USA def Belgium, 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18 

Saturday, Aug. 10
Netherlands def Belgium, 25-22, 25-21, 25-20
USA def Korea, 25-20, 25-21, 25-16 

Sunday Aug. 11
USA def Netherlands, 25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21

Replay on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. PT

U.S. Men’s Roster for Tokyo Qualification Tournament

1  Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2  Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3C  Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4  Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA)
7  Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
11  Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12  Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
13  Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
14  Micah Ma'a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA)
17  Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
18  Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
20  David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22  Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Doctor: William Stetson
Sports Psychologist: Bernard Whitney
Trainer: Tim Pelot